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Lean at Cardiff University

In 2006 Cardiff University made the decision to become a Lean University. The objectives set by the University’s Senior Management team were:

  • We Will: Develop a Lean University
  • Where:
    • People are confident to act and innovate
    • Internal and external users value services as being timely, responsive and uncomplicated
    • Leadership is aligned and consistent to deliver our vision
    • The working environment is vibrant and creative
  • In order to: Be one of the world’s leading Universities with an academic community recognised for its international distinction and impact.

From the start it was clear that the main objective of the Lean University was to create a sustainable continuous improvement culture. The key for the success of the University’s Lean Journey was to engage with staff at all levels and provide them with the capability and skills to improve their working environment.

To realise this a central Lean Team was established. This team was not put in place to either do Lean “to” people nor was it set up to do Lean “for” them. Instead their remit was to coach and support colleagues through change initiatives by delivering training, facilitating workshops, transferring knowledge and providing guidance during implementation.

The Lean Team have ensured that the approach undertaken remains flexible to the needs of the University. Each project or area the Team work with is looked at closely and the methodologies used are developed based on the requirements for that environment. This is particularly important in the higher education environment due to the complex nature of the processes, the numerous stakeholders involved in any process and the limited experience of change management. However at the root of everything remain the 5 Lean Principles.

The approach designed and implemented Cardiff focuses on three levels. The following diagram details this together with examples as to where they have been put into practice:


3 Level approach

This methodology ensures:

  • That there is a clear need for change identified at the start of any project.
  • That time is taken to understand the current issues whilst determining a vision for the future.
  • That implementation of improvements is done with the understanding of the impact on the bigger picture and is prioritised accordingly.
  • That measures are put in place to check the effect that changes are having on the process(s) clearly highlighting where success is being achieved or where further improvement is needed.
  • Finally that actions are taken to embed and sustain successful change and to continuously improve as needed.

This means that at Cardiff University we are embedding Lean through following the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle.


PDCA